All seasons can take their toll on a wooden boat dock, but winter is especially hard on it. If left to the elements, you could have some expensive repair bills next spring. Here are some maintenance tips to keep your boat dock in good shape when the rain, snow, and ice hits.
Getting Your Dock Safely Through Winter
Prepare your dock for the winter to prevent extensive dock repair efforts in the spring. If left to the winter weather, snow and ice can damage your dock in a number of ways including
- Ice flows on the water put pressure on pilings causing them to shift position or even raise up out of their footings.
- Snow that melts and freezes on a dock creates cracks in the wood, or widens old cracks to where planks can split.
- Algae growth on wooden decks that stay wet all winter can split wood and make surfaces slippery.
Addressing These Winter Problems
Reduce the ice problem with bubblers. These are tiny electrical pumps that create a sheet of air bubbles around your dock's pilings. The bubbles prevent the water from freezing and sticking to the pilings. This reduces the pressure on the pilings and prevents them from being moved by the ice.
Keep ice from sticking with polymer sleeves. Have a marine contractor install polymer covers on your dock pilings. This material won't let ice stick to it and to the pilings. This keeps the pressure of the ice off of your dock.
Keep snow and ice off the dock. Shovel off any snow before it has the chance to collect, melt, and re-freeze on your dock. Use a marine-friendly ice melt spray or crystals on the dock surface to prevent the accumulation of ice.
Keep algae off of the dock. If your winter is wet with mild temperatures, spray your dock with an algaecide, much like is used in hot tubs and swimming pools. Power wash heavy algae build-up before it can damage the wood planks.
If maintaining your wooden deck through the winter is a big chore, talk with a local marine construction company about replacing the surface with a composite material. Composites are not affected by snow or ice like a wooden deck, but they are not maintenance-free. They can collect mold, fungus, and mildew and need to be kept clean so they don't decay and break down. Plastic decks are another option because they contain fewer organic materials, so they are less prone to damage by mold and mildew. For assistance, talk to a professional like Abbott's Construction Services Inc.